Let the Good Times Roll: My Life in the Small Faces, Faces and The Who
By Kenney Jones
Thomas Dunne Books/St. Martin’s Press
While his name and face may not be familiar to the casual classic rock listener—partially due to the fact that his visage was usually hidden behind drums—Kenney Jones was an integral part of three pretty damn important English bands of the ‘60s through the ‘80s.
Born Kenny Jones (he later added the extra “e” to avoid getting royalty checks from other musicians with the same name), his happy childhood in London’s East End ran parallel to an “obsession” with playing drums. So much that he bought his first kit and had it delivered to the family home with a 10-pound note he lifted from his mother’s purse.
At the age of 16, he co-founded the Small Faces with a mischievous running buddy, guitarist/bassist Ronnie Lane. And while best known in the United States for the musically bouncy (but lyrically subversive) single “Itchycoo Park,” back home them were a bigger deal and at the forefront of the Mod scene along with The Who.
In fact, Jones became fast friends with their drummer, the wildman Keith Moon, recounting here some crazy tales. The relationship would eventually lead to a bigger opportunity for Jones a few years down the line.
Another reason the Small Faces never broke in the U.S. market had to do with their inability to tour when one member was busted for pot, around the same time the band fought with their management and record company to release less of their “teeny bop” sounding material. The hippy concept album Ogden’s Nut Gone Flake (with its circular cover) proved to be the band’s swan song when singer/guitarist Steve Marriott left to form Humble Pie with Peter Frampton.
The remaining three Small Faces joined up with guitarist Ron Wood and singer Rod Stewart to form the Faces. Their brand of party down, booze rock (complete with a fully-stocked bar onstage from which a tuxedo-clad roadie would serve the group during concerts) became hugely popular with American audiences. And the sex/drugs/rock and roll ethos of the group found a signature song in their FM staple “Stay with Me.”
The Faces would eventually rent a separate suite at hotels just to hold parties for band members, roadies, and whatever female companionship they found. And when the Holiday Inn chain of hotels banned the group because of the damage they’d done to rooms across the country, they began to check in…as Fleetwood Mac.
Always playing practical jokes on each other, Jones recalls the time that during one of his drum solos, the other Faces took a little trip to a bar across the street from the venue, had a drink, and then sauntered back to find an exhausted Jones still desperately whaling away on his kit! But with Stewart’s solo career rocketing and Wood being wooed by the Rolling Stones, the Faces to broke up.
When The Who drummer Keith Moon died in 1978, the familiar face of Jones was the only person approached to replace him, in so much as that was possible. But while Pete Townshend and John Entwistle liked Jones, Roger Daltrey was not a fan, and the two conflicted until Jones was let go. Despite appearing on two albums (including the songs “You Better You Bet” and “Eminence Front”) and many tours and shows, Jones notes that his overriding emotion of his time with The Who was “disappointment.”
Today, Jones spends as much time playing polo on a course at his English home while gigging with the Jones Gang and occasionally doing guest shots with some of his old mates. And while he may have been overshadowed in personality by a lot of more boisterous band mates, his memoir is a front seat to the ins, outs, and ins again of three very important classic rock bands.
Bonus Review! Rock Critic Law: 101 Unbreakable Rules for Writing Badly About Music
By Michel Azerrad
Dey Street Books
Though the quote has been attributed to everyone from Elvis Costello to Hunter S. Thompson, the line “writing about music is like dancing about architecture” actually originated with comedian Martin Mull, bringing to light a dichotomy that has dogged rock journalists for more than 50 years.
Over those decades, something of a shorthand – and often overused – has developed when music scribes put fingers to keyboards for a band/performer interview or concert/record review. For instance:
• Feel free to call something an “instant classic” even though, by definition, only time can tell if something is classic.
• You MUST use the words “rollicking” and “moniker” even though you would never say those words out loud.
• If an aging musician is still active, you MUST say they “show no signs of slowing down.”
• A singer with a raspy voice has been gargling with broken glass, whiskey, gravel, cigarette butts, or some combination thereof
• If a new group includes at least two former members of a now-defunct band, then it is “formed from the ashes” of that band.
I don’t want to say how many of Azerrad’s 101 rules I am currently or have been guilty of, but his list (each one illustrated with panache by Edwin Fotheringham), should give myself and other rock journos plenty of reasons to re-read all of their upcoming assignments before submitting to the media outlet that hosts their random thoughts and opinions.
Playful, though cutting close to the bone, this brief tome is both a celebration and tough intervention of those who write about music and musicians, be they flash-in-the-pan or seminal. Oh yes, and another unbreakable rule? “If a band pioneered something, you must say they are ‘seminal.’ That is the Seminal Law of Rock Criticism.”
KEEP THE HOUSTON PRESS FREE...
Since we started the Houston Press, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Houston, and we'd like to keep it that way. With local media under siege, it's more important than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" program, allowing us to keep offering readers access to our incisive coverage of local news, food and culture with no paywalls.
Bob Ruggiero has been writing about music, books, visual arts and entertainment for the Houston Press since 1997, with an emphasis on classic rock. He used to have an incredible and luxurious mullet in college as well. He is the author of the band biography Slippin’ Out of Darkness: The Story of WAR.